Pictish Symbol Stones

Over 1500 years ago these so-called “enigmatic” structures appeared predominantly in the north east of what has become Scotland. Lack of defacing suggests that carvings of geometric Pictish Symbols, Christian Crosses, Celtic animal, bird and fish objects, and more, were acceptably placed together.

This author’s initial quest was to determine what the Symbols might represent then to seek an explanation for the origin and purpose of the Stones themselves. Extensive research covered visits to Stones in outdoors, church and museum locations in Scotland, references to texts, exploring ancient writing and looking for patterns of objects in several countries – nothing was conclusive. The quite unexpected turning point came from a visit to the Museum of London.

Just as carvings on the Rosetta Stone provided the key to decoding Egyptian hieroglyphs, the Mithras roundel from the London Mithraeum has provided the key to decoding the Symbols on the Pictish Stones. This has led to significant proposals – that the Symbols represent a belief based on Roman Mithraism and that the main purpose of the Stones was religious, initially Mithraic and at a later stage Christian with a distinct transition between the two beliefs.

This website investigates the different beliefs the Symbol Stones represent, their functions and the significance of their locations. It sets out to answer Why so Intriguing? through four main themes: –

  • Decoding the carvings in the context of beliefs – in particular Symbols representing a form of Mithraism
  • Introducing Pictish-Mithraism™ – which the author proposes was a belief developed from Roman Mithraism
  • Demonstrating that the surfaces of Stones were used as a “shared space” with carvings reflecting different beliefs
  • Exploring the transition from Mithraism to Christianity

A clear distinction can be made between the general name of Pictish Stones – which may or may not have the well-known symbols – and the more precisely labelled Pictish Symbol Stones which most definitely are carved with the “symbols”. The most numerous (mainly geometric) Symbols are the V-Rod & Crescent, Mirror, Z-Rod & Double Disc, Pictish Beast and Comb. Collectively these account for two thirds of the Symbols.

Sufficient material has surfaced to demonstrate that the Pictish Symbol Stones are not “enigmatic” but used initially within the practice of the Mysteries of Mithras as detailed by the author in Pictish-Mithraism – The Religious Purpose of the Pictish Symbol Stones published in 2017 by Austin Macauley and available through Amazon and other international booksellers.

Subsequent investigations have found that animal, bird and fish objects relate more to Celtic personal attributes than beliefs – with the added challenge that some of these objects could also have a Roman context. Additionally, carvings of battle scenes and Ogham writing have been included. Far from being “unintelligible” the carvings have been decoded, interpreted and placed in a wider context that also accounts for the physical locations of the Stones themselves. The surfaces of the Symbol Stones appear to have been shared – successfully.

To set the scene of an exploration into the Symbol Stones, it is useful to draw a distinction between Pict, Pictland and Pictish.

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